More Tricky Chemistry Writing Conventions
- The field of chemistry includes some unique conventions with abbreviations.
- Pronounce elements as though they are written out, not based on their abbreviation.
- Pronounce isotope number second, even if written in front of the symbol.
- Avoid superscript or subscript when describing an atom’s position.
Chemical elements have standardized one- or two-letter abbreviations (as seen on the periodic table), but how are these used in scientific manuscripts? Here are a couple of conventions to keep in mind when writing or editing your next chemistry manuscript.
Even when the abbreviation is used within a sentence, the element’s name is treated as though it is being pronounced. Therefore, choose the right article to precede the element symbol based on the pronunciation of the element name.
- a Au electrode
- a He-Ne laser
- an Sb-containing compound
- an O sensor
When the element abbreviation is used, the isotope number is written first. However, the isotope name or symbol is pronounced first; the article that precedes the term is therefore not based on the number.
- a 14C isotope
- an 127I isotope
Note that when describing atoms in a specific position, do not use superscript or subscript:
- at the carbon in the 6-position
- at C6 or at C-6
- the atom in the β-position
We hope that today’s post helps clear up any confusion with element abbreviations. As always, if you have any questions, let us know by email ([email protected]). Best wishes!